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Culberson, Capuano, and the Struggle for Relevance


Shelbinator has a ridiculous little post up defending Rep. Capuano’s braindead attempt to regualte YouTube for political speech.  Patrick Ruffini at The Next Right has a good post up calling out the frightening number of Dems trying to make this about partisanship.

The fact is the whole thing is stupid.  Capuano’s argument for why he is doing this, Nancy Pelosi’s defense of him in her letter to Boehner, and Shelbinator’s defense all come down to the same lame argument.

In order to keep up with the “decorum” of the House, they ought to find a way to do so that doesn’t get too tangled up in commerce or political campaigning due to free market forces (i.e., if you watch a Representative’s “official” YouTube video, it might be unbecoming if the three “related” videos that pop up in the YouTube player after it’s over were a racist anti-Obama ad, a pitch for Viagra, or candid footage of Britney Spears’ crotch). Not unreasonable suggestions, I think.

I left a comment on Shelby’s site, but I think it bears repeating here.

If these rules are so critical to protect us from unrefined content that might accompany “official” communications, why hasn’t the Franking Commission required newspapers to print any columns submitted by Members on facing pages with no advertising, comic strips, or campaign news?

If this is such a reasonable request, why hasn’t the Franking Commission required TV news programs to not bookend Member appearances with commercials?  Why don’t they have rules for what other stories can appear in the crawl on the chyron?

The fact is Capuano is ignorant of the equivalence between offline and online communications.  He clearly doesn’t use, know, or understand the area over which he is attempting to exert jurisdiction.

Honestly, the idea of franking dates back to the 1600s.  The entire concept of the Commission is a joke in the era of the Internet.  With newspapers losing subscribers, TV losing viewers, and every other aspect of society being radically changed, Capuano’s action is nothing but a desperate attempt to remain relevant in a position that is growing obsolete by the second.

When Micah Sifry and I were in London in April, we had many discussions with the academics there that felt they could just watch the Internet change everything else on the planet, but somehow they would be excused from the Internet Age.

Congress is now making the same mistake.  They’re attempting to ignore the flames around them and keep playing their fiddles as the US burns.  They’ll continue looking for ways to apply 17th century standards of decorum to 21st century communications technology.  It’s frightening that our institiutions are so far behind the world around them.  But that’s what you get with bureaucracies…



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Written by Michael Turk